After practising other martial arts Todd van Hees set aside his preconceptions and began to investigate Tai Chi.
His personal discovery of the ‘moving meditation’ (forget images of legion Chinese pensioners performing the practice on beaches) led to qualification as an instructor.
He even credits the art with helping him cope with solitary riding while he tackled the route of the Tour de France for charity William Waites Memorial Trust in 2014.
Buoyed by his experiences he’s set up Heevan Lee Tai Chi in Westferry in the hope Wharfers will also enjoy its stress-busting benefits.
We asked him to tell his story.
How did you get involved?
I’ve always been interested in different forms of martial arts.
I started with karate in Australia and I went on to Kendo and Taekwondo.
It had always been in the back of my mind Tai Chi was for old people – especially when you look at China and people doing it on the beach.
But I thought maybe I should check it out and leave my pre-conceived ideas at home.
That was four years ago. Now you’re fully qualified in Jason Chan’s Infinite Tai Chi, but what is it?
I call it moving meditation and the movement’s why you can class it as a form of exercise.
Tai Chi’s got 25 main sequences that you work up to but prior to that there’s a warm up and Chikung postures to get the body awake, like the Golden Sun sequence.
Its been passed down through generations and Infinite Tai Chi in particular has five or six Chikung sequences which we alternate.
Then you might go into Tai Chi then meditation, with classes lasting around an hour to 90 minutes.
Much like there are different forms of yoga – Bikram and Ashtanga for example – so it is with this art.
People take what they consider to be the best parts and they put them together.
Infinite Tai Chi is less martial art, more loving art – the energy surrounding the body is concentrated at the heart centre – rather than going out and punching someone in the face.
It’s a heart-based connection to the practice.
Sounds good – what will I be doing?
You’re moving in very slow sequences and there’s no exertion of extra weight on the body, it’s only your own body weight.
It’s great to help with balance – you’re learning to work with your balance in a subtle way and you’re slowing everything down.
You can get more control over your body and understand what you are doing.
The Golden Sun sequence, for example, gives you flexibility in your hips and you start to feel the energy around your hands
I’m frazzled – slowing things down sounds ideal
People who are stressed need something to help them chill out and, when you release energy, you go away fresh.
Releasing energy helps you to think about things in a different way and makes sure you are in the right frame of mind when you look at things.
People who are so stressed out can’t think of anything like that during Tai Chi – it’s about being comfortable with who you are.
It’s essentially a way of getting time out without getting stressed about having time out.
Is it as easy as that?
It’s tough to do nowadays, especially when people are contactable all the time.
But you can go for a run and you might pull a muscle, or you can go to yoga and if you can’t bend you just get stressed at the class even though that should be one of the most serene environments to go into.
With Tai Chi you are where you are in your movement journey and it’s specific to you.
But it’s not going to be for everyone and some people are still going to prefer the fast paced action.
Classes run from Monday to Thursday from 7pm and cost £10.